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A Complete History of SNL Hosts Who Did Double Duty as Musical Guest

From Desi Arnaz to Nick Jonas (and all the Justins and Mileys in between).
  • (Photos: NBC)
    (Photos: NBC)

    Saturday Night Live's format has seen a good deal of change over the decades — from the shaggy, unpredictable Not Ready for Primetime Players years, through the Digital Shorts era, to now — but one constant has been that the show features a guest host (a celebrity of some kind, usually an actor) and a musical guest. They've got a great show for you, and they'll be right back! But occasionally a host is so talented that the show tasks them with double duty: hosting and performing as a musical guest. It's only happened 38 times in the show's 45-year history, although in recent years it's happened with increased frequency. With February's Nick Jonas-hosted episode recently joining the pantheon, we decided to compile a complete history of host/musical guest combos, from Seasons 1 through 45.

    Desi Arnaz
    Season: 1 Episode: 14 Date: February 21, 1976
    Somewhat appropriately, the very first SNL host to double as musical guest was TV pioneer Desi Arnaz, who at that point was almost 20 years removed from the final episode of I Love Lucy. As musical guest, he performed alongside his son, Desi Arnaz, Jr. Best Sketches: The younger Arnaz played Ricky Ricardo in an I Love Lucy parody, with Gilda Radner co-starring as Lucy.

    Paul Simon
    Season: 2 Episode: 8 Date: November 20, 1976
    Early-seasons mainstay Paul Simon hosted the second episode of the series ever, though he wasn't a musical guest that time. In Season 2, he hosted the pre-Thanksgiving episode (famously dressing as a turkey in the monologue) and also performed as the musical guest, alongside George Harrison. Best Sketches: Simon didn't star in it, but Gilda Radner did a "Baba Wawa" sketch, interviewing John Belushi as Henry Kissinger.

    Ray Charles
    Season: 3 Episode: 5 Date: November 12, 1977
    The legendary Ray Charles hosted and served as a musical guest in the show's third season, and when you have Ray Charles on hand, it seems you don't skimp with the musical performances, because Charles performed a whopping five times. Best Sketches: Charles starred in a sketch opposite Garrett Morris playing Ella Fitzgerald, satirizing Fitzgerald's TV commercials for Memorex cassettes.

    The Rolling Stones
    Season: 4 Episode: 1 Date: October 7, 1978
    The fourth season premiere featured the legendary Rolling Stones as both hosts and musical guest. Best Sketches: Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood both guest starred in that episode's Olympia Cafe sketch.

    Frank Zappa
    Season: 4 Episode: 3 Date: October 21, 1978
    Experimental rocker Frank Zappa was a perfectly oddball fit for those early SNL seasons. He performed “I’m the Slime” as a musical guest in Season 2, then returned to host the third episode of Season 4, just two weeks after the Stones. Best Sketches: Appropriately enough, the otherworldly Zappa guested in a Coneheads sketch.

    Deborah Harry
    Season: 6 Episode: 10 Date: February 14, 1981
    After a fifth season without a single host/musical guest combo, the Blondie lead singer hosted and performed in an episode that also featured Funky 4+1 as the other musical guest — the first hip-hop group to ever appear on a national television show. Best Sketches: It being a Valentine's Day episode, Harry was joined in her monologue by Eddie Murphy dressed as Cupid.

    Olivia Newton-John
    Season: 7 Episode: 20 Date: May 22, 1982
    Riding high on the success of "Physical," Olivia Newton-John did double duty in the seventh season finale, memorably appearing in a Grease-inspired sketch opposite Mary Gross and Christine Ebersole. Best Sketches: Newton-John wasn't in it, but this was the episode that featured the famous "Ebony and Ivory" sketch with Joe Piscopo's Frank Sinatra and Eddie Murphy's Stevie Wonder.

    Stevie Wonder
    Season: 8 Episode: 19 Date: May 7, 1983
    A year after that "Ebony and Ivory" sketch, SNL welcomed the real deal to Rockefeller Center, inviting Stevie Wonder to host and perform. Best Sketches: Wonder appeared opposite Eddie Murphy in several sketches, including a trip to visit Dion, Murphy's flamboyant gay hairstylist.

    Paul Simon
    Season: 11 Episode: 16 Date: May 10, 1986
    In the show's eleventh season, their favorite son Paul Simon became the first person to both host and serve as the musical guest twice, albeit this time in an odd episode that doubled up on hosts (Simon shared duties with Dynasty star and future cult opponent Catherine Oxenberg) and musical guests (Graceland era Simon performed along with Ladysmith Black Mambazo). Best Sketches: Simon appeared in a sketch featuring Jon Lovitz's recurring Mephistopheles character, with Robert Downey Jr. and Anthony Michael Hall playing Simon and Garfunkel, respectively.

    Willie Nelson
    Season: 12 Episode: 12 Date: February 21, 1987
    The legendary country singer pulled double duty as host and musical guest in the first season of a largely new cast including the debuts of Phil Hartman, Dana Carvey, and Jan Hooks. Best Sketches: Nelson appeared opposite Carvey in a Church Lady sketch, as well as in a recurring set of sketches about Great Moments in White Trash History.

    Sting
    Season: 16 Episode: 11 Date: January 19, 1991
    After going a full three seasons without a host/musical guest combo, Sting broke the dry spell. Best Sketches: Sting played Billy Idol in the great "Sinatra Group" sketch, a McLaughlin Group parody hosted by Phil Hartman's tremendously cranky version of Frank Sinatra (“I got chunks of guys like you in my stool!”).

    MC Hammer
    Season: 17 Episode: 8 Date: December 7, 1991
    There was probably only a single point in time where MC Hammer was riding high enough to both host and be the musical guest on SNL, and that was December of 1991, two months after his Too Legit to Quit album dropped and two weeks after The Addams Family premiered, featuring Hammer's "Addams Groove" on the soundtrack (Christina Ricci and Jimmy Workman cameoed in costume as Wednesday and Pugsley to introduce Hammer's musical performance). Best Sketches: The excellent "Bad Haircut Support Group" sketch where Hammer tried to defend his own very good haircut.

    Garth Brooks
    Season: 23 Episode: 14 Date: February 28, 1998
    After MC Hammer, SNL went a fulll five full seasons without anyone pulling double duty. Breaking the streak was country superstar Garth Brooks, whose album Sevens had recently dropped. Best Sketches: Airing just as the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was picking up steam, this episode featured the cold open with Bill Clinton (Darrell Hammond), Monica Lewinsky (Molly Shannon), and Sadaam Hussein (Will Ferrell) on a three-way call. That sketch didn't feature Brooks, but he did participate in a Mango sketch as well as play a classique lady of the evening in the "Old French Whore" game show.

    Garth Brooks
    Season: 25 Episode: 5 Date: November 13, 1999
    Two seasons later, Brooks was back again as host/musical guest, though this time it was his alter-ego Chris Gaines doing the singing. Best Sketches: A late-in-the-episode sketch featured Brooks selling his soul to the devil (Ferrell) in exchange for a perfect song, only the devil is terrible at songwriting.

    Jennifer Lopez
    Season: 26 Episode: 11 Date: February 10, 2001
    A month after releasing her J.Lo album (and a year after showing up to the Grammys in that famous green Versace dress), Lopez made her first appearance as SNL host. She'd been a musical guest in Season 25 for host Alan Cumming, but this time she did both. Best Sketches: J.Lo and Chris Kattan's Mango had a memorable face-off, and she appeared with Ana Gasteyer and Maya Rudolph in the Gemini's Twin MTV Cribs sketch.

    Britney Spears
    Season: 27 Episode: 12 Date: February 2, 2002
    Spears was perhaps the biggest pop star in the world, but her Saturday Night Live host/musical guest gig coincided with the release of her film, Crossroads. Best Sketches: Spears also appeared in what turned out to be the final Gemini's Twin sketch as third group member "Dijonnaise."

    Justin Timberlake
    Season: 29 Episode: 2 Date: October 11, 2003
    It's very interesting that Timberlake's first host/musical guest gig came between Britney Spears's and Janet Jackson's. He'd appeared as a guest in Spears's monologue, but by this point he was single and solo. Best Sketches: In a night that saw the debuts of the "Omeletteville" dancing mascot and the very first "Barry Gibb Talk Show," Timberlake also sent up his own terribly embarrassing Punk'd appearance by playing Ashton Kutcher in a sketch about the MTV prank show. He also played Jessica Simpson opposite Jimmy Fallon's Nick Lachey in a Newlyweds sketch.

    Janet Jackson
    Season: 29 Episode: 17 Date: April 10, 2004
    In the aftermath of the Super Bowl "Nipplegate" controversy, Janet Jackson was signed to serve as host and musical guest, just a week after Donald Trump hosted to no controversy at all. Best Sketches: Jackson sent up her Nipplegate scandal in the cold open where she appeared as Condoleezza Rice, opposite Darrell Hammond's Dick Cheney.

    Queen Latifah
    Season: 30 Episode: 2 Date: October 9, 2004
    With only a few episodes to go before the 2004 Bush/Kerry election, anxiety was high, so who better to soothe our raging psyches than host and musical performer Queen Latifah? Best Sketches: Queen Latifah played the great Patti LaBelle in an episode of "The Prince Show."

    Ludacris
    Season: 32 Episode: 6 Date: November 18, 2006
    Nothing against Chris Bridges and his music and acting career, but SNL kind of hopped on the train in the middle years between his biggest hit songs and his becoming a regular in the Fast & Furious movies. Best Sketches: Ludacris played himself in a recording-studio sketch where his protegee is named "Blizzard Man" and is played by Andy Samberg. You can imagine how that turns out.

    Justin Timberlake
    Season: 32 Episode: 9 Date: December 16, 2006
    Timberlake returned with a second double-duty appearance for the Christmas episode in 2006, riding high during his FutureSex/LoveSounds era. Best Sketches: The dancing mascot came back, as did "The Barry Gibb Talk Show," but this episode was made most famous by Timberlake and Samberg teaming up for "Dick in a Box."

    Taylor Swift
    Season: 35 Episode: 5 Date: November 7, 2009
    It's at this point, in Season 35, that casting guest hosts who pull double duty as musical guests becomes pretty much an annual thing. Swift had made her SNL debut the season before as a musical guest on the Neil Patrick Harris episode, and now, just a couple months after the Kanye West VMAs incident, her star was on an even more meteoric rise. Best Sketches: Swift portrayed reality TV lightning rod du jour Kate Gosselin on that night's "The View" sketch.

    Jennifer Lopez
    Season: 35 Episode: 15 Date: February 27, 2010
    Lopez's second host/musical guest outing came nine years after her first, just ahead of her performance in the forgettable rom-com The Back-Up Plan. Best Sketches: J.Lo played Rihanna in the cold open "We Are the World 3" sketch, but by far the best sketch of the night was Lopez joining Jenny Slate's Tina Tina Chanuse to sell car horns.

    Elton John
    Season: 36 Episode: 18 Date: April 2, 2011
    Elton John had last appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1982, serving as musical guest for a Johnny Cash-hosted episode. Best Sketches: Not the best episode overall, but Sir Elton did get to appear in a Dooneese sketch with Kristen Wiig.

    Mick Jagger
    Season: 37 Episode: 22 Date: May 19, 2012
    The Season 37 finale needed a familial feel, so the show turned once again to the Rolling Stones lead singer. Best Sketches: Seeing Jagger as one of "The Californians" was surreal, but the only real choice for best in show was his appearance in what was Kristen Wiig's final sketch as a cast member, a lovely send-off set to "She's a Rainbow."

    Bruno Mars
    Season: 38 Episode: 5 Date: October 20, 2012
    Mars' smash hit "Locked Out of Heaven" had just been released when he was called upon to pull SNL double duty in an episode that had election anxiety on the brain, just a couple weeks ahead of Obama v. Romney. Best Sketches: Mars joined special guest Tom Hanks in haunted-castle sketch, but easily his best sketch of the night was the "Sad Mouse" video short, in which he played a lonely Times Square mascot.

    Justin Bieber
    Season: 38 Episode: 13 Date: February 9, 2013
    Bieber was well into his problem child stage as he hosted SNL in an episode that cast members like Kate McKinnon and Bill Hader have both said was not a good showing. Best Sketches: There was a sketch about Beebs body doubles where McKinnon showed up as Ellen DeGeneres, and he got to guest on Vanessa Bayer's "The Miley Cyrus Show," but the best sketch was when he lost it opposite Taran Killam as an overprotective brother who's way too aggro about Beebs' slip of the tongue.

    Miley Cyrus
    Season: 39 Episode: 2 Date: October 5, 2013
    Cyrus had already hosted once, in Season 36, but she was back this time as her own musical guest (sorry, The Strokes!). The episode came right on the heels of her infamous twerking performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, which was lampooned in the show's cold open. Best Sketches: The "Mornin' Miami" sketch featured Cyrus, Bobby Moynihan, and Kate McKinnon as chipper morning show hosts who are furiously sullen off air. Also, Miley got to show off her Scarlett Johansson impersonation in a "50 Shades of Grey Auditions" sketch.

    Lady Gaga
    Season: 39 Episode: 6 Date: November 16, 2013
    By this point, the show was all in on actor/musicians. Foreshadowing Gaga's Oscar-nominated foray into acting, SNL brought her on to host and perform just one week after her Artpop album debuted. Best Sketches: Well, she performed "Do What You Want" with R. Kelly, which isn't exactly the ideal thing to have on your permanent record, but she and John Milhiser killed it as over-invested stage parents at a 4th grade talent show.

    Drake
    Season: 39 Episode: 11 Date: January 18, 2014
    Drake was back for the first time since Season 37, when he guested on the Anna Faris episode. This was the first episode back after the holiday break. Best Sketches: Drake played Lil' Wayne in a "Hip Hop Classics" sketch where his Wayne was the original Steve Urkel on Family Matters.

    Blake Shelton
    Season: 40 Episode: 12 Date: January 24, 2015
    In a bit of intra-corporate synergy, Shelton, star of NBC's The Voice was given the plum spot of a host/musical guest gig in early 2015. Best Sketches: It doesn't matter what else was on that episode, just that this was the night Shelton, Kate McKinnon, and Aidy Bryant did "The Wishin' Boot."

    Miley Cyrus
    Season: 41 Episode: 1 Date: October 3, 2015
    Miley was back again, this time for the season premiere episode. Best Sketches: Cyrus played a small part in the sketch where Hillary Clinton guested as a bartender named Val, opposite Kate McKinnon's own Hillary impersonation.

    Ariana Grande
    Season: 41 Episode: 15 Date: March 12, 2016
    After showing up as the musical guest in the Season 40 premiere episode, Grande was back, this time as host, two years before she started dating cast member Pete Davidson. Best Sketches: In the last sketch of the night, Grande played a salty Maria Von Trapp, ready to read the hell out of the gossipy nuns talking sh*t about her.

    Drake
    Season: 41 Episode: 20 Date: May 14, 2016
    In the season's third host/musical guest combo, Drake showed up to promote his recently released album Views. Best Sketches: "Black Jeopardy" never disappoints, with Drake starring opposite Jay Pharoah and Sasheer Zamata.

    Halsey
    Season: 44 Episode: 12 Date: February 9, 2019
    This was not Halsey's first appearance on Saturday Night Live, as she'd previously performed in Season 37 with guest host Sam Rockwell. She was also celebrating the Oscar run for her pivotal performance in A Star Is Born. Best Sketches: Haley portrayed Rashida Tlaib in the Squad-obsessed "Women of Congress" sketch.

    Chance the Rapper
    Season: 45 Episode: 4 Date: October 26, 2019
    Chance had already been a musical guest and hosted once (with musical guest Eminem) before SNL invited him to play both roles. Best Sketches: The increasingly macabre and unsettling "Tasty Toaster Tarts" sketch starts out seeming like a typical "cool snacks for teens" commercial and becomes far more unsettling.

    Harry Styles
    Season: 45 Episode: 6 Date: November 16, 2019
    The last SNL host-musical guest before the pandemic shut things down, Harry Styles was the second host/guest combo in three episodes. Best Sketches: Definitely the sketch where Harry played a social media manager for the Sara Lee company whose accidental and sexually explicit tweets get him into trouble, although shout out to the Aidy Bryant "Doug" sketch where Bryant sings about her dog who she loves and who turns into Harry Styles.

    Nick Jonas
    Season: 46 Episode: 14 Date: February 27, 2021
    And so we land at the most recent host/musical guest double threat, actor/musician Nick Jonas. Best Sketches: Jonas as a sinister presence inside a mirror instructing a workout class is a strange, dark sketch, but it goes some crazy places and is mostly an excuse for Jonas to show off his guns.

    Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Saturday Night Live, Ariana Grande, Blake Shelton, Britney Spears, Bruno Mars, Chance the Rapper, Drake, Elton John, Garth Brooks, Halsey, Harry Styles, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Ludacris, Miley Cyrus, Nick Jonas, Paul Simon, Queen Latifah, Stevie Wonder, Sting, Taylor Swift